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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we discuss the process of contempt of court in Illinois. To learn more about contempt of court in family law cases, check out part one and part two of this article series. Below we will answer the following questions:

  • What does the contempt process look like?
  • What if the other party is out of the country?
  • What happens at the contempt hearing?
  • What happens if I’m found in contempt?

In part one and two of our “contempt of court in family law cases” series, we discussed the basics of contempt motions and what to do if you are served with contempt papers. But what does the overall process look like, and how exactly do I hold someone in contempt? Like most things in law, you must fill out and file the correct forms to start; but that’s just the beginning. Pursuing a contempt order against another party can be time-consuming and costly. It’s highly advised that you discuss the benefits and risks of your specific case with your family law attorney.

What Does The Contempt Process Look Like?

A handful of steps must be completed before the contempt motion can even be considered in court. The first of which, is making sure you have a copy of the specific court order or list of parental responsibilities that you plan to reference when filling out the contempt of court paperwork. Once you have those, you can start to put together all the paperwork you will need, including:

Three copies of the:

  • Order for parental responsibilities;
  • Petition For Rule To Show Cause; and
  • Notice Of Motion

The petition for Rule to Show Cause is the official mechanism used to initiate a hearing of contempt of court against another party. It must include the following information:

  • Your name, address, and phone number;
  • The target of the petition’s, or respondent’s, name and a home or work address;
  • The alleged violation and any supporting evidence, including dates and relevant info;
  • Any attempts at fixing the problem outside of court; and
  • What kind of recompense you are seeking.

The petition for Rule to Show Cause must be personally served upon the respondent by certified mail, sheriff, or special process server. It must include a notice informing the respondent of the hearing date. At the hearing, the petitioner will present evidence supporting his or her claim of the respondent’s contemptuous behavior. The respondent can choose to defend himself with or without an attorney (highly suggested to have some kind of legal support if defending), or accept the charge and the resulting punishment. After both sides have had the chance to present evidence, the judge will make her decision and a court order will be produced.

What If The Other Party Is Out Of The Country?

In instances where the other party is out of the country, such as on active military duty, you can still start the contempt process, but ask that the hearing be stayed until the individual returns. If your goal is to enforce a child support or spousal maintenance order, your attorney can fill you it on other avenues for collection that are more immediate. Also, if you live in a different state or county from the original order, then you will likely need to take additional steps during the contempt proceedings. 

What Happens At The Contempt Hearing?

Not all courts have the same contempt hearing procedure. Some require live testimony, while others ask that the party get advanced permission. Still, some don’t allow live testimony at all. You can speak with the county clerk to learn the idiosyncrasies of your local court. 

Often, the judge will have multiple hearings on the same day, making preparedness paramount. The judge will listen to both parties’ arguments. The person who filed for contempt of court must prove all of the following:

  • A court order exists and is in place;
  • The other party knows and understands the court order;
  • One or more violations of the court order occurred;
  • The other party was given ample notice of the contempt hearing; and
  • The other party was given the reason for the contempt hearing

If the other party fails to show up for content hearing, it may result in the judge issuing a warrant for their arrest.

The party being held in contempt will have a chance to present their defense at the hearing, along with any motions filed, as long as they were filed on time. After hearing both sides, the judge will decide on the Motion for Contempt and any other motions presented at the hearing. If the petitioner wins their motion, they will present the judge with an order to sign. He may sign the order into effect right there or schedule a future hearing date.

What Happens If I’m Found In Contempt?

If you win a contempt of court order against another party, or you are found in contempt, the judge will order one or more remedies. These can include:

  • A fine for each day the contemptuous conduct continues;
  • Reimburse the court costs and attorney fees of the party who brought the contempt motion;
  • Recompense for any losses suffered by the injured party;
  • A specific order designed to make you obey the existing court order;
  • A change in the parenting agreement; or
  • Imprisonment as a last resort, and only to get you to obey the original court order

For more information on contempt of court in family law cases, go back and check out part one and part two of our series. If you have any questions about contempt of court and family law, don’t hesitate to reach out and speak with one of our qualified attorneys.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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